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Transforming Stories, Driving Change blog

As a community partnership research project, a goal of Transforming Stories, Driving Change is to explore how performance can help us understand our world and collectively imagine ways it might be different. We see the Transforming Stories, Driving Change blog as a way of extending this act of collective imagining to the broader community. With our posts we reflect on experiences within the project and make visible some of the methods we engage and the questions we grapple with. Below are some linked snippets to blog posts organized by category. We also welcome your participation in our online conversation, so please check out the blog and add your voice!



How do we get from here to there, from now to a hoped-for then? What is the role of the imagination—individual and collective—in transporting us to our desired future destinations? It’s wonderfully fitting that Choose Your Destination…, a play by four young women connected to Good Shepherd Youth Services, had its debut performance during the week of International Women’s Day, a day that serves as potent reminder of the power of imagining better futures and of working together to collectively manifest those visions. [more]


Seeds: When My Home is Your Business

“I wish this could be a snapshot into a meeting, at the beginning, before we even begin to discuss programs.”

                                          — When My Home Is Your Business audience member. [more]


In our in conversation with … series of posts we introduce you to the people behind the Transforming Stories, Driving Change project—the artists, researchers, and community participants who desire Transforming Stories to make a substantive contribution to civic engagement in the city of Hamilton.


Katherine Kalinowski

"Transforming Stories, Driving Change reminds me that there are other ways to look at what’s wrong with the system and how to fix it.”

                                          — Katherine Kalinowski, Chief Operating Officer, Good Shepherd Centres Hamilton [more]

Chris Sinding

“I’m really fascinated by what art does and can do in the world…there’s a magic in it.”

                                          — Chris Sinding, co-Principal Investigator, Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]

Catherine Graham

“Nobody is going to create a world that we all really want to live in if there is no pleasure in doing it. I’ve really come to believe that our emotions tell us where we fit in the world at any given moment. If you’re miserable doing something, something is wrong, something needs to be corrected. So I’d say play together and pay attention to what pleasures arise through this kind of purposeful play, because how everyone feels will be an important clue about what a mutually meaningful world might look like.”

                                          — Catherine Graham, co-Principal Investigator, Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]

Jennie Vengris

"I think the method and process is a good one. It elicited all sorts of conversation. And it did get some of us who are firmly in our heads, out of our heads a little bit, which I think it is hopeful."

                                          — Jennie Vengris, co-Investigator, Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]

Melanie Skene

"This project is adding different layers of voices to our vision of Hamilton. Hamilton is changing. There are people talking about change, and a lot of times it’s the same people, the politicians and that. So, we need to add new voices that they don’t get heard because they also have a stake in how Hamilton changes."

                                          — Melanie Skene, visual artist, puppeteer, and production coordinator with Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]

Paula Grove

"In Hamilton there is a great need to keep a dialogue going between all the various constituents of our city." 

                                          — Paula Grove, theatre director, teacher, and performer and Assistant Director with Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]


Participant asks important questions

"Does it really ever add up to anything? Who is listening?"

                                         — Cass Henry, community self-advocate and Transforming Stories, Driving Change performer-participant [more]

Personal and community transformation

“In the process of conversation, change happens.”

                                         — "Jones," community self-advocate and Transforming Stories, Driving Change performer-participant [more]

Saying what we really wanted to say

“Transforming Stories actually helped us to tell exactly what we want to say… instead of saying what they want to hear.”

                                         — "Jones," community self-advocate and Transforming Stories, Driving Change performer-participant [more]

A powerful way of communicating issues

“When the Transforming Stories team came to us, we were part of an advisory committee that advised a larger committee that supports women who were facing homelessness. So, there were two co – chairs and 8 members. City employees we worked with introduced us to people at McMaster’s Social Work and Theatre departments. And they came in, talked to us about the project and asked us what we thought about it. And we were like, yeah let’s go for it. Why not? We came to educate and inform. That’s one of our primary objectives to inform about the gaps in the system, to provide the women’s perspective.”

                                          — "Jones," community self-advocate and Transforming Stories, Driving Change performer-participant [more]


Sarah Adjekum reflects on the nuances of representation

An interesting dilemma that arose early in the process was that of gender. How could we depict the range of experiences that intersect with housing with the existing cast that remained? As well, how could we appropriately include stories of gender diversity, and sexual orientation? [more]


The Great Fanzinis!

“The Great Fanzinis do not do this one-person juggle by themselves. Nonsense! The Great Fanzinis are a family. They juggle like a family.”

                                          — Catherine Graham as "Ring Master" [more]

Staging relational space

Work on our newest play, “When My Home is Your Business…” is moving forward fairly quickly now. One of the crucial steps in making theatre out of the stories participants shared (see our previous blog entries) was to figure out how characters might actually come in contact with each other in the shared space of urban apartment buildings. [more]


Image Theatre

Every week for the past three weeks, a small group of Hamilton renters has been gathering with the Transforming Stories team to develop believable characters and true-to-life situations that represent life as a tenant. 'Josie' and her experiences were created using a community-engaged performance technique known as ‘image theatre’. [more]


Story telling circle

"Story circle is about telling a personal story with an object and using that object as a starting point to tell a story about how they want their community to change for the better." 

                                    — Melanie Skene, visual artist, puppeteer, and production coordinator with Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]


Post-performance traces

"As socially-engaged arts-based researchers we are confident in the power of art to move those it reaches. At the recent performance of Choose Your Destination the “magic” was palpable. It was in the audience’s rapt silence—and its resounding applause."

                                  — Helene Vosters, Post-doctoral fellow and Project Coordinator with Transforming Stories, Driving Change [more]

Seeds: When My Home is Your Business

“I wish this could be a snapshot into a meeting, at the beginning, before we even begin to discuss programs.”

                                          — When My Home Is Your Business audience member [more]

The audience plays their part

The story of When My Home is Your Business didn’t end with the performance. Discussions between audience members, the comments they left on index cards, their graffiti-like posts about what they thought life could be like in Hamilton if things changed for the better, all added to the story the play had started to tell. [more]


Catherine Roach on displacement

“Many of the people being displaced are the more vulnerable in our society.”

                                         — Cassandra Roach, Transforming Stories, Driving Change community outreach worker [more]


What we’ve been up to lately

Our blog has been on a bit of a hiatus since this spring’s stunning performance of Choose Your Destination, a Transforming Stories, Driving Change (TSDC) production created with and performed by youth connected to Good Shepherd Youth Services. Despite the blog-break, members of the TSDC research team have been busy… [more]


Promising Privacy — while performing publicly

In text-based research projects, “protecting” the anonymity of community-based research participants is a relatively straightforward task. With arts-based research, on the other hand, the identity of the participant/creator cannot always be completely hidden, since the source of the knowledge and the vehicle for disseminating it through performance are one and the same. In other words, when participants perform, they are visible—this is the nature of performance. In fact, this is also highly desirable to many of our community partners and participants. [more]